Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Here's a good simple piece by Joe Posnanski regarding Carlos Beltran and why Steve Philips was so off-base to criticize him. Go read it and come back.

Steve Philips is an idiot, but a lot of Mets fans seem to underestimate just how good Beltran is. I'm not sure exactly why, but I think it's a combination of: (1) a few memorable bad moments, particularly the strikeout looking to end the 2006 NLCS; (2) he's an extremely well-rounded player, but he doesn't have one stat or individual tool that leaps out as being ridiculous (somewhat reminiscent of Bobby Abreu's no-frills peak with the Phillies); and (3) he doesn't come across as being intense. 

Because of all that, a lot of Mets fans have simply missed the fact that Carlos Beltran has been one of the best players in baseball since his arrival. We're so used to grumbling about all the bad free agent signings the team has made that we ignore one of the great signings they've made. I took a look at Fangraphs' measurement of Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which includes offense and defense, and adjusts for position played. I added in a baserunning measure to make it more complete.

Based on these calculations, Carlos Beltran ranks as the 7th best position player in baseball since he signed his contract with the Mets. Here's the top 10 since 2005 (including 2009 thus far) in WAR (# of wins contributed to their team above a replacement-level player):

Pujols 33.4
Utley  31.8
A-Rod  31.0
Sizemore 28.0
Wright  27.2
Chipper 23.1
Beltran 22.7
Holliday 21.9
Cabrera 21.4
Ichiro  21.3

In case you're wondering where Hanley is, he's 11th even without playing in 2005. He'd rank 6th if we excluded 2005.

Further explanation of the methodology - I took Fangraphs' calculation of WAR, which takes into account overall offensive production versus league average, defense (measured by UZR) versus league average, makes a positional adjustment, and then adds value over a replacement level player (which adds about 2 wins for a full season). I think Fangraphs' measurement is the best comprehensive available, sortable stat on the web, but it has 3 flaws: (1) it doesn't make an adjustment for the difference between the NL & AL; (2) it doesn't include baserunning (other than SB & CS); and (3) it doesn't include defense for catchers. I made adjustments to correct for the first two. I made a rough imperfect adjustment by giving AL players .25 wins per season and docking NL players .25 wins per season. And I added non-SB baserunning from BP's eqBRR report. Catcher defense is a little hard to measure, but to be complete, I should've added a basic measurement for catcher SB/CS, and maybe passed balls/wild pitches. So, Joe Mauer is getting screwed here. He's at 20.1 and would probably crack the top 10 if we considered his above average defense.